United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRESERVATION AND
ACCESS TO RECORDS
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brought this action on June 10, 2019, against a Norwich
police officer and another individual alleging that he was
subject to a malicious prosecution based on false statements.
Doc. 1 (Complaint) ¶¶ 4-5, 10. Plaintiff was
arrested and charged for assault, and on April 26, 2017, he
was ultimately found not guilty. Id. ¶¶
has now filed a motion requesting that this Court enter an
order for purposes of preserving Plaintiff's arrest
records until the completion of the instant lawsuit. Doc. 11,
at 2. Plaintiff also seeks access to such records.
Id. at 3-4. Defendants have not filed any
law provides that “[w]henever in any criminal case . .
. the accused . . . is found not guilty of [a] charge . . .
all police and court records and records of any state's
attorney pertaining to such charge shall be erased.”
Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 54-142a(a). However,
“[e]rasure alone does not mean the physical
destruction of the documents.” Doe v.
Manson, 183 Conn. 183, 185 (1981) (emphasis added).
Rather, erasure “involves sealing the files and
segregating them from materials which have not been erased
and protecting them from disclosure” except in limited,
statutorily-authorized circumstances. Id. Thus,
Plaintiff's concern that his records will be destroyed
appears to be misplaced.
cites to subsection (e) of Connecticut's erasure statute
for the proposition that his records might be destroyed in
the near future, presumably because almost three years have
passed following his acquittal. Doc. 11, at 2. That provision
Such clerk or such person, as the case may be, shall provide
adequate security measures to safeguard against unauthorized
access to or dissemination of such records or upon the
request of the accused cause the actual physical destruction
of such records, except that such clerk or such person shall
not cause the actual physical destruction of such records
until three years have elapsed from the date of the final
disposition of the criminal case to which such records
Gen. Stat. Ann. § 54-142a(e)(1).
contrast to Plaintiff's assertions, though, the statute
“explicitly provides that it is only ‘upon
the request of the accused' that ‘actual
physical destruction of such records' should or could
take place.” Gagain v. Scirpo, No. 09-cv-571
(CSH), 2013 WL 6839466, at *4 (D. Conn. Dec. 27, 2013). And,
the statute does not provide that records will be
automatically destroyed after three years-rather, three years
is the point after which the clerk is permitted to destroy
the records (at the request of the accused). See Id.
Thus, at this juncture, this Court need not enter an order
preserving Plaintiff's records.
event, the Court is not yet convinced that it is permitted to
issue such an order; nor, for that matter, grant
Plaintiff's second request-i.e., an order
directing the Norwich police department to provide Plaintiff
access to his arrest records. Doc. 11, at 3-4. This Court
previously addressed an analogous question in Edwards v.
Stewart, No. 15-cv-1257 (CSH), slip. op. (D. Conn. Oct.
5, 2015), albeit in the context of section 54-142a(f). In
that case, and in response to the defendants' motion
seeking disclosure of police and court records, I explained
that the motion:
[B]elies a fundamental misunderstanding of our federalist
system and therefore fails to address a vital question: while
Defendants address what the state of Connecticut
allows to be disclosed to certainly situated defendants, they
omit any discussion as to who may order that
disclosure. This question is paramount because the
Constitution places strict limits on the powers of federal
judges with respect to the states. Absent express consent by
the state, the Eleventh Amendment serves as a jurisdictional
bar prohibiting federal courts from issuing orders directing
state officials to conform their conduct to state law.
See Pennhurst v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 106 (1984)
(“[I]t is difficult to think of a greater intrusion on
state sovereignty than when a federal court instructs state
officials on how to conform their conduct to state
law.”). This Court is without authority to order
Connecticut government officials to disclose documents
related to the Plaintiff's criminal proceeding.
Id. at 2-3.
instant case, Plaintiff has not submitted any authorities
demonstrating that Connecticut has consented to a federal
court ordering disclosure (or preservation) of records
pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 54-142a. Thus, the
Court assumes, without deciding, that the reasoning in
Edwards applies to the provisions at issue in the
Plaintiff has not explained if and why he has been unable to
obtain access to his records in accordance with the
statute's existing procedure. Subsection (e)(1) provides
[A]ny person charged with retention and control of such
records in the records center of . . . any law enforcement
agency having information contained in such erased records
shall not disclose to anyone, except the subject of the
record, upon submission pursuant to guidelines prescribed by
the Office of the ...